Our exciting culinary journey today takes us on an exploration of Bhojpuri cuisine – food that has ancient Indian medieval roots along with a strong Awadhi influence. Even today, this style of cooking continues to be prevalent in Bihar, Jharkhand and the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Its traces can even be found in some parts of Odisha. Rice and wheat comprise the staple food of this region, so typically traditional Bhojpuri dishes are eaten with either rice or chapatti.
The district of Bhojpur as we know it today was established only in 1972 but the region has enormous historical significance. Bhojpur was named after the famous Rajput king, Raja Bhoja of the Parmara dynasty which ruled the Malwa region between the 9th and 14th Centuries CE.
The dish we will be preparing today is called Bhojpuri Baingan Badi Sabzi – a traditional recipe made with aubergines (Baingan), dried lentil dumplings (Badi) and assorted vegetables (Sabzi). A wide array of locally available spices is used to create the unique flavour of this ancient delicacy.
Here are the ingredients that you will require.
Black Gram Lentils (Urad Dal): 75 grams
Aubergines (Baingan): 200 grams
Onions: 200 grams
Tomatoes: 200 grams
Spinach (Saag): 200 grams
Red Chillies: 2
Mustard Oil: 250 millilitres
Garlic (Lasun), grated: 1 teaspoon
Ginger (Adrak), grated: 1 teaspoon
Cumin (Jeera) Seeds: 2 teaspoons
Asafoetida (Heeng): Half a teaspoon
Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: Half a teaspoon
Garam Masala: Half a teaspoon
Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: Half a teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder: Half a teaspoon
Dry Mango Powder (Amchur): Half a teaspoon
Salt: to taste
The quantities mentioned above are for serving four persons. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.
We are going to start out by making the Badi (dried lentil dumplings) at home. Yes, you can buy readymade Badi at your grocery store – you will need around 75 grams for this recipe. However, we are going to remain true to traditional Bhojpuri culinary practices and make the Badi from scratch as part of the preparation for this dish.
Rinse the black gram lentils and soak them overnight in water. The next morning drain the water. Take the black gram lentils in a mortar and add one teaspoon of cumin seeds. Grind them using a little water into a coarse paste. Next, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of asafoetida, and place the contents in a blender. Blend to create a smooth batter. To improve the consistency of the batter, pour the batter into a bowl and beat it.
Take a large tray and spread a little Mustard Oil on its surface. Use a tablespoon to carefully drop the batter on to the tray, one spoonful at a time. Make sure you leave gaps on the tray as you drop each spoonful. Don’t let the blobs of batter merge. Each blob will eventually dry to form a Badi.
Place the tray in the sun for three days. Choose a safe place where birds and insects cannot get at the Badi. Take the tray indoors at night to prevent any moisture from setting into the Badi. Once the Badi has dried, turn each piece upside down on the tray and put the tray out in the sun for one more day. This will ensure that any residual moisture is removed and the Badi pieces are completely dry. When the Badi is done it should be crumbly – easy to break with your hands.
Cut the onions into small pieces.
Cut the tomatoes into small cubes.
Cut the stalks off the red chillies; discard the stalks.
Coarsely chop the spinach leaves and keep them wrapped in a moist cloth to prevent them from becoming dry.
Cut the aubergines into circular slices that are a couple of centimetres in thickness. Sprinkle the turmeric powder to coat both sides of each slice of aubergine.
In a pan, heat the Mustard Oil on a High flame till it reaches its smoking point and starts releasing puffs of aromatic white smoke. Your oil is now ready for you to start cooking. Reduce the flame to Medium.
Add the Badi to the hot oil. Deep-fry the Badi till the pieces turn medium brown in colour. Remove the fried Badi from the pan and keep aside.
To the same hot oil add the aubergine slices. Deep-fry the slices till they turn dark brown in colour. It is best to fry the aubergine slices in batches to ensure that they don’t get burnt. Once the aubergine slices are properly fried, remove them from the oil and keep aside. Turn the flame off.
In another pan, take two tablespoons of Mustard Oil from the earlier pan. Heat the oil on a Low flame. When the oil becomes hot, add the remaining teaspoon of cumin seeds and the fenugreek seeds. Sauté till the seeds begin to splutter.
Next, add the red chillies and continue to sauté for another 30 seconds or so.
Now add the grated garlic and ginger, and continue to sauté for another two minutes.
Next, add the onion pieces and sauté till the onion turns brown in colour.
Add the tomato pieces along with the spinach leaves. Continue to sauté for another couple of minutes.
Now add the red chilli powder and a pinch of asafoetida. Continue to stir and sauté.
Add the fried Badi. Stir to mix the contents of the pan well.
Next, add the fried aubergine slices along with the garam masala, dry mango powder and salt to taste. Stir to mix all the ingredients and cook till the aubergine is well-cooked and turns soft. Once the aubergine slices are done, turn the flame off.
Your traditional Bhojpuri Baingan Badi Sabzi is now ready. Serve it hot. As mentioned earlier, this dish is usually relished with rice or chapatti.
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